The Invasion of Esan Territory by the Jihadist, their defeat and aftermath!
Brought to you by: Esan Homecoming Advocacy Campaign Committee, powered by EYO.
Ewu 4th April, 2022.
The fertille territory of Esanland stretching from Iruekpen in the West to Ozigono in the East, from Ekpon to Ewu (the northern boundary), was attacked in the mid 19th century by the Nupe and the Fulani Jihadist. Their mission then was to hunt for slaves, weaken and decimate the territory for an eventual take over.
In an effort to enlighten the youths of Esan land and refresh the memories of the aged who were told through oral history of the horrors of the past by their grand parents who experienced and survived the Invasion, the Esan Youths Organization (EYO) in its Esan Homecoming Advocacy Month, brings to you, the interesting historical piece in an effort to show us that anything happening now is not new. It has happened before and it took the unity of our great grandparents to unite and defeat the Invaders to preserve the land for us. We also have a duty to defend the territorial integrity of Esanland for the future generations.
Excerpt (as provided by an History Researcher Prince Sani Ojeifo).
*THE INVASION OF ESANLAND BY FULANI/NUPE AND THEIR DEFEAT*
Before 1824, the dynasty that ruled the Nupe Kingdom was Tsoede Royal Dynasty. Unfortunately, there was a crisis between the Nupe princes as a member of the Tsoede royal family, and it’s emerged after the death of Abdullahi Tinkanko in 1783. The two principal rivals, Jimada and Majia, could not resolve it without inviting foreigners, e.g., The Fulani under Mallam Dendo.
These Fulani leaders neither helped to settle the quarrel nor found a solution to the civil wars that ensued. Rather, they manipulated the situation to take over power from the two Nupe princes in 1824. This was how Dendo established a Fulani dynasty that assumed leadership in the area from 1824.
In 1860, Bida under the leadership of the Fulani adopted a violent external policy. An aggressive expansionist policy aimed at the establishment and maintenance of Nupe’s control over several lands and raiding of slaves, particularly Etsako, Owan, Akoko Edo, and other Afemai communities in Northern Edo State. Their primary goal was to conquer and annex, Edo North, Esanland, Benin land down to the seacoast of the Niger Delta for their economic and political benefits from about the second half of the nineteenth century.
The army under the leadership of Fulani princes Umaru Majidi and Maliki supervised the invasion and conquest of Edo North in 1860. They were successful in their mission because of some Etsako leaders who assisted the Nupe/Fulani to ensure their victory over the entire Etsako or Afemai country, due to the necessity of keeping their new titles and position of IZENI or consuls, during this period.
When they were able to establish a leadership structure in Edo North. In 1881, with assistance from radicalized Etsako, they invaded Ewu. Ewu was the first place the Fulani attacked in Esanland and this is due to its proximity to Agbede in Esako. Which is about 10 kilometers at Ujagbe, which was then part of Ewu. In 1882, they attacked Idoa, Ukhun, and Uzea looking for slaves. At this time, it was imperative there is a need for (Akugbe) unity in Esanland to be able to defeat the (Egbalukpon) the name Esan called Fulani.
Thus, all the kingdoms in Esanland drafted an army through their war captain Okakulo. The military defense alliance was named AKOTA. They were armed with modern weapons, firearms, long barrel guns, Utagbo, Blacksmiths, archers, and juju priests. The AKOTA was positioned across strategic locations in Esanland, including Ehor close to Benin City. The first encounter between the Akota, allied forces, and Fulani/Nupe troops lasted for more than three years. (1894-1897). It was coded Egbalukpon Nell war, meaning ‘the war of the robed ones’, because the Nupe and their collaborators robed even in war with horses.
This is how the Fulani were defeated and pushed back to Agbede in Esako. We will forever remain grateful to our forefathers who laid down their lives to defend our territories and civilization. They are the reason why we still bear our ancestral names, Akhigbe, Ojiefoh, Iloube, Okojie, Eromosele, Aigbefoh, etc. Not Muhammed, Jabril, Abdullahi, Abubakar.
The invasion is not without consequence. The implication is the little Islamic footage you see in Ewu today and some northern Esan Kingdoms mentioned above. Finally, one or two traditional rulers in Esanland converted to Islam over time, not through conquest but voluntarily. For instance, in 1921, the king of Agbede, Akhigbe Momodu converted the Onojie Eromosele of Irrua, to Islam by offering his daughter; princess Ebaaje in marriage.